The Coathangers couldn’t play their instruments when they formed on a whim five years ago but now — somewhat to the dismay of singer/guitarist Julia Kugel — they’re getting sort of awesome. “We’re still kind of shitty. I tell myself that to keep the pressure off,” she says on a break from her day job at a prom and bridal dress store. On their third disc, Larceny & Old Lace, the Atlanta quartet polish up their ramshackle mixture of salty punk spazz-outs and sweeter tunes built on jagged guitar riffs and creepy organ lines. “We all have day jobs, so this band is a place for us to be completely free,” she says. “This is the only place in life you can say exactly what you want. Going on tour is a magical experience because I can say, like, fuck off.”
Unfortunately, Kugel failed to flip off eMusic’s Caryn Ganz while they chatted about serial killers and Golden Girls…
On recording in (gasp!) an actual studio:
We recorded the second album (2009′s Scramble) in our practice space, which is why it sounded like it was recorded in a basement — because it was. This one we went into a real studio and had an engineer who was really adamant about sounding good. Before we were like, “Oh, it’s a snapshot; messing up adds character.” We still recorded live. We just kept trying until we got the best take. Maybe this is our last record — hopefully not — but we went into it thinking we have to make the best thing we can make. Because you never know, 2012 is coming, it might be Armageddon, all sorts of shit is happening. Like tornados.
On Larceny & Old Lace‘s dark inspirations:
We were fascinated by women serial killers and serial killers in general. The mood of the record, even though we tried to not make the lyrics too literal, is death. We went on a tour we called the Death Tour because four or five people we knew died — “Jaybird” is about Jay Reatard dying. We were watching a lot of biographies, and there was one about Myra Hindley. She’s a British lady who killed a bunch of children. You never really think of women being serial killers except for that lady from Monster, but it doesn’t matter what sex you are; you can be as crazy as crazy gets. There was a guy during the World’s Fair who built a hotel with hallways that went nowhere — he killed 50 or 60 people and no one ever knew. “Call to Nothing” is kind of about him, about obsession. But we tried to make it so it could almost be about love in a sick sort of way. “I will stay with you till the end… tangled in your hair, I was happy there… I will never let you go.” It could be sweet if you’re in love, or it could be totally sick.
On titling their new album after one of the greatest shows in TV history:
Larceny & Old Lace is the name of a Golden Girls episode. I’m obsessed with the Golden Girls. I wrote two papers in college on the show, and I was watching one of my favorite episodes and I saw the name and was like, “I love the way that sounds together.” Then I found out the play Arsenic and Old Lace was about a killer, so it all came together.
On their striking new album cover:
My friend Elizabeth is a photographer and artist in New York who does nudes. We were looking through some of her photography and came across this picture, and the look on that girl’s face reads how we felt. She’s in this almost sexual position, but there’s nothing sexual about this picture in my opinion. It looks like she’s been crawling on her hands and knees; like she’s gone through some shit. She’s vulnerable but looks strong — it’s a very haunting image. In an ad for the FADER, they had to put a bar over her boobs, but I don’t understand why. We’ve always gotten weird questions about being female anyway, so this will just add to that.
On the perils of having noms de rock (Crook Kid, Minnie, Rusty and Bebe Coathanger):
We use them when we sign stuff or do some interviews, but it’s not like we strictly adhere to Coathanger names. In the end, if I really like you I’m not going to make you call me Crook Kid, that’s kind of silly. At shows people will be like “Crook Kid!” or “Rusty!” and I’m like, “What?” It’s something we started in the beginning so we didn’t have to put our names on the MySpace. We were doing our fantasy version of being in a band, so we were like, let’s do the Ramones, we’ll all have our own names, and then we did. And then we were like, “Oh shit, now we have to remember what our Coathanger names are.”